By ALEX IRISH
[sneering voice]: “Um, actually, it's pronounced Doki Doki Panic~.”
The trivial revelation that the version of Super Mario Bros. 2 the western hemisphere got isn't the “real” Super Mario 2. It's a tale as old as time, true as it can be, that what we got in 1988 was actually a conversion of the Japan-only Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic (aka Dream Factory: Heart-Pounding Panic). It's the way to explain the unique departures seen in Super Mario 2. from the first game, from its setting to brand-new enemies, to the distinct item-plucking mechanic. Japan's Super Mario Bros. 2 was practically a copy-paste of the original game, only much harder. Ours was brought over by necessity so as not to damage the Mario brand due to an overly difficult game.
Our special guest for Super FamiCon 2017, professional writer and games scholar JON IRWIN, will be presenting panels and discussions on his 2014 book about the phenomenon of SUPER MARIO BROS. 2. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE. PURCHASE YOUR TICKETS HERE.
In this discussion going back 30 years, how many of us have taken the time to consider just what is Doki Doki Panic? The Japan-only game for the Famicom Disk System came about through a collaboration between Nintendo and Japan's Fuji Television Network. Fuji TV was to hold the one-off Yume Kōjō '87 festival during August of 1987, to promote their upcoming fall television line-up. Symbolically, the event represented Fuji TV's vision for the future- the future of media. And visually, masks were a major motif to convey this worldly message. Nintendo's game would represent the spirit of the event, as seen in its usage of masks and the characters.
The original Doki Doki Panic stars a quartet of Arabian characters who set off to the mysterious land of Sub-Con. In place of Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad were Papa, Mama, Imajin, and Lina. So, where do they come from? Believe it or don't, these four weren't solely the creation of Nintendo, even if the game design was. Other than the thematically appropriate characters, everything else about the gameplay, music, and enemies remained the same ones American children got to know the following year.
So despite the obscurity of the source material, Doki Doki Panic is more important to Super Mario's evolution than you might think. Before obtaining the Fuji license, Nintendo developers were experimenting with how to do a platformer that moved vertically as well as horizontally- the same way Super Mario Bros. had perfected horizontal-scrolling action. Because it came out of the prime Mario team, Nintendo EAD (led by Mario-creator Shigeru Miyamoto), it is inferred that Doki Doki Panic was systematically the true Mario sequel all along.
Because the family of four lead characters in Doki Doki Panic are owned in part by Fuji TV, they have not been seen in any media since their 1987 debut, and the original game has not been republished. Japan itself wouldn’t see our Super Mario Bros. 2 until 1992 in replacement under the evocative title Super Mario USA. The loss of the main characters in favor of Mario characters was no big shake, as almost everything else about the game stayed the same in localization (with minor edits to certain sprites and animations involved).
Thanks to the ROM hack of this unrelated game, the Mario pantheon grew richer through the addition of characters like Shy Guys, Bob-Ombs, Birdo, and Wart, all of whom have made return appearances in later games. From a promotional effort that begat a full retail release that in turn was folded back into the Super Mario series, Doki Doki Panic marked a fascinating chapter in the early days of Nintendo's signature franchise.